FRAME|WORK: At Sea, Japan by Jennifer Bartlett

Last weekend marked the one-year anniversary of Japan’s tragic earthquake and tsunami. Today marks the birthday of Jennifer Bartlett, whose opus, At Sea, Japan, was inspired by Japanese artistic traditions and is highlighted in this week’s FRAME | WORK . This work is currently not on view, so we hope you enjoy At Sea, Japan as we reflect on Japan’s recovery and resilience.

Jennifer Bartlett (American, b. 1941). At Sea, Japan, 1980. Color woodcut and screenprint on 6 sheets of Japanese handmade Kurotani Hoso paper. Anderson Graphic Arts Collection, gift of the Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson Charitable Foundation. 1996.74.29

Printmaker, painter, sculptor and author Jennifer Bartlett is a native of Long Beach, California. After receiving her BA from Mills College, she went on to further study at Yale’s School of Art and Architecture where she received her BFA and MFA under the tutelage of contemporary art titans James Rosenquist, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg, among others. Of this formative experience at Yale, Bartlett remarked, “I’d walked into my life.”

In 1980, Bartlett embarked on a collaboration with master printers of the Simca group in Japan. The monumental result was At Sea, Japan, an 8-foot long composition comprised of 96 screenprints and 86 color woodcuts printed on six sheets of Japanese paper hung horizontally, side by side. Bartlett’s abstract but figurative ellipses glide across each sheet as ripples on a pond, their complex elegance a testament to Bartlett’s preference for the refined style of Japanese woodcuts.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of At Sea, Japan is its degree of technical complexity and perfection rendered in Bartlett’s precise, controlled hand. Although two media are at play, the artist has gone to great lengths to minimize their textural differences, so that the screenprinted elements merge seamlessly with those made from woodblocks. Bartlett’s studied mastery of the subtle Japanese woodcut techniques she learned in Tokyo is evident, and the artwork’s surface bears a surprisingly painterly quality.

Learn more about Bartlett's masterful technique in the videos below, which were featured in An American Focus , prints from the Anderson Graphic Arts Collection.